July 24, 2015

I’m going to start this week with an odd photo that I saw in the CityLab e-newsletter.  Can you guess what this is?

I’ll provide an explanation at the end of this update.
I missed some considerable excitement (if excitement is the right word) in early July while I was out of town and one of the biggest rain storms in Ashland’s history struck on July 7. I would imagine that by now everyone who wants to has seen the pictures and the videos of the water rushing through downtown Ashland, so I won’t re-run them here. 
Just how big was the storm? Well, Public Works Superintendent Mike Morrison, Jr., dug up this chart from NOAA showing that it was the fifth-highest one-day rainfall total Ashland has ever experienced.

Bear in mind that while 1.71 inches may have fallen in a one-day period, 1.64 inches fell in just an hour, and most of that in the first 30 minutes. That’s a lot of water. By Mike’s calculation, 181,000,000 gallons of water fell on Ashland in that hour. The problem wasn’t that creeks flooded, the problem was that our storm drain system doesn’t have the capacity to handle that volume of water in such a short period of time. Imagine filling a five-gallon bucket with water and dumping it all at once into your kitchen sink. The water will fill up (flood) the sink and then slowly drain as the capacity of your plumbing catches up with the volume of the water. That’s basically what happened here. As soon as the rain slowed, the storm drains functioned as they were supposed to and carried all of the water away. A big thank you to everyone who responded during the storm, especially to the Electric Dept. crews who had to respond to multiple power outages around town.
Recently the City of Eugene made the top 10 list of Up-and-Coming Cities for Tech Jobs. This article from Oregon Business gives a little explanation of what elements are helpful in growing in the tech industry and for making cities good places for tech jobs. As the City of Ashland continues to strive to grow the local tech job market, (and I think we have some but not all of the necessary elements) this article is interesting.
Portland State University released their final Population Forecast Reports for Coos, Crook, Curry, Deschutes, Douglas, Jackson, Jefferson, Josephine, Klamath, and Lane Counties. You can click here to download the reports.  The report projects considerable growth for Jackson County over the next 50 years, but not much for Ashland.
On the subject of growth, here’s a very interesting CityLab article about growth and affordable housing (or lack thereof) in San Francisco.  It’s a striking read if one changes “San Francisco” to “Ashland” and, of course, adjusts the numbers to reflect the scale of our community.  A key point of the article, which comes near the end, is also applicable to Ashland, when the author says: “Let me say very clearly here that making it possible to add large amounts of housing supply in San Francisco would never have been enough by itself. A comprehensive agenda for affordability requires additional investments in subsidies for affordable housing. Given the realities of economic inequality, there are large numbers of people who would never be able to afford market rate housing, even in a better-functioning market.”

Community Development
Entering the downtown from the east you’ll notice that the property located at 345 Lithia Way is undergoing a facelift. The construction and redevelopment project includes partial demolition and conversion of the existing service station and carwash into a retail/restaurant establishment. The service station pumps, island canopy, air and vacuum stations will be removed from the site. The applicant also intends to decommission the underground gasoline storage tanks. The interior car wash bay will be converted to an equipment and storage area, while the existing retail area will be enlarged through the conversion of the mechanic bay in order to accommodate retail and restaurant spaces, which includes the sale of growlers, a custom container designed to hold draft beer. The retail and restaurant area will be approximately 1,200 square feet.

Public Works Department
This week crews from the Public Works Department Street Division began crack sealing Siskiyou Boulevard. 
Roads are built in layers, depending on anticipated usage and load, and the layers can go down a few feet into the ground. Depending on the native soil, the very lowest layer can be made of woven material designed to keep the rock base layer from sinking into softer soils. Above the woven fabric material there will then be layers of varying sized rock and finally the top surface made of asphalt. The asphalt provides a near waterproof layer. One of the most damaging things that can occur to a road is for water to be allowed to penetrate to the base layers for an extended period of time. Water will weaken the sub structure and cause a failure in the road. Once this has happened, major repairs must take place to correct the problem. If allowed to continue for too long, a full road replacement must be done. However, crack sealing can extend the life of a road by using a hot tar substance to fill cracks in the asphalt road surface, restoring the surface to make it impervious to water.
Each year it is a goal of the Street Division to crack seal as much of our road system as possible. Crews concentrate their efforts on the areas in town with the highest traffic loads, where road failure is the most likely to occur. From there they work into the less busy sections of town and finally into the neighborhoods. This year the Street Division expects to apply approximately 90,000 pounds of crack seal material to streets here in Ashland.

Police Department
Earlier this week Chief Tighe O’Meara pulled the part 1 crime numbers for the first half of 2015 and compared them to 2014. He was pleased to see that part 1 reports have dropped from 306 to 255 for the first half of the year.  (Part 1 crimes are more serious violent and property crimes.)

Chief O’Meara continues to meet with the partner agencies on deployment of  body cameras. He hopes that APD will get their body cameras before the Medford Police Department and Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and will be able to use Ashland’s smaller number of officers to try to work some of the kinks out before the other agencies roll theirs out. Additionally, APD are getting closer to having a policy for use so citizens know what to expect.

Electric Department
The Electric Department has completed the pole replacements for the I-5 crossing at Tolman Creek and East Main. The wooden poles supporting one of the feeders from the Oak Knoll substation needed to be replaced, including the poles supporting the I-5 crossing. The Electric crews worked for several weeks replacing poles along the feeder and preparing for the complex I-5 pole crossing.
On a Sunday, in the early hours of the morning, the crew successfully moved the lines crossing I-5 from the existing wooden poles to the new steel poles. The critical move to the steel poles required a total of four hours and a high degree of coordination with both the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Pacific Power. ODOT coordinated the closure of the access ramps from Phoenix to the south side of the Siskiyou Summit. In addition, ODOT coordinated the slowdown of traffic on I-5 in order to provide a series of twenty minute windows for the electric crews to incrementally do their work. The reconstructed feeder serves the Walker Avenue area between Harmony and Leonard in the south and Campus Way and Crocker Street in the north. During the construction/transfer period the load normally served by the construction area was served from the Mountain Avenue substation. 

Storms, trees, and wildlife (raccoons, squirrels) have each been responsible for outages over the past month. The largest incident occurred with a raccoon intrusion at the Mountain Avenue substation. The substation was offline for ninety-six hours while the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) repaired and tested the affected substation equipment. Fortunately the distribution system is designed and constructed to be able to recover from such a large single loss event. The Electric Department was able to restore power within four to twelve hours by incrementally switching load away from Mountain Avenue to the other two substations serving the City. The City and BPA are collaborating on ways to eliminate animal intrusions at Mountain Avenue as well as protect the substation equipment should an animal intrusion occur.

BPA has released the final results of the BPA rate case (BP-16), covering the period from October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2017. BPA establishes power and transmission rates during the rate case process. The final figures for the City will be available next week. The City’s budget anticipated an increase of 7.3% for power and 8.6% for transmission. Initial interpretation of the BPA rate document indicates the final rates will be very close to the rates the Department used in the City’s budgeting process.
Board and Commission Updates
Housing and Human Services Commission
The Housing and Human Services Commission met for its regular monthly meeting on Thursday, July 23rd.  The Commission received an update from Police Chief O'Meara regarding the homeless issues in town, including car camping, downtown issues and citations. The Commission primarily discussed workload and how best to manage workload with their meeting schedule. Upcoming challenges on the on the Commission's schedule include continuing research associated with the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, Student Fair Housing Project, and the Social Service Grant process and forms. Lastly, the Commission finalized changes to a letter to be submitted to the Council highlighting the need for affordable housing in Ashland.
Normal Neighborhood Plan – Working Group Recommendations
The Normal Neighborhood Plan working group has concluded its yearlong review and revision to the Normal Neighborhood Plan. The Transportation Commission recommended approval of the final proposed street network at its regular meeting on April 23. The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, July 28, regarding the ordinances implementing the Normal Neighborhood Plan. The Planning Commission will consider public testimony, the recommendations of the Transportation Commission and working group, and will forward final recommendations to the City Council. The City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing and first reading of the proposed ordinances on Tuesday, September 1, 2015. All materials to be presented to the Planning Commission at this upcoming meeting are available online at: ashland.or.us/normalplan
That odd picture at the start of this update…
…Is a public art installation by Argentine artist Leandro Erlich in Karlsruhe, Germany, which, like Ashland, has a thriving arts scene.  That similarity notwithstanding, I don’t think a piece like this would work as Ashland’s Gateway Island public art project.  However, the three artists who have been selected as finalists for that project will present their concepts to the public on Thursday, September 10, at noon and 5 p.m. in the Gresham Room of the Ashland Public Library.  Look for additional details in the City Source newsletter and on the City web site.

Previous Updates:

June 12, 2015

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